As an anti-racist who adores Star Wars, writing this brings me nothing but pain and misery. But BECAUSE I’m an anti-racist AND a Star Wars fan, it is my sworn duty to expose the bullshit that Disney tried to peddle as “progressiveness.” This is in ascending order, and it is by no means a COMPLETE list of the racial mistakes Disney has made with this franchise. Onward…
10. Reducing Rose Tico’s role to a cameo in Episode 9
When Rose Tico debuted in Episode 8, opinions were not the most positive, to be certain. A lot of fans didn’t take to her, her toys sold like wet blankets, and generally speaking Rose quickly rose through the echelons of the most hated Star Wars characters ever.
But there was potential in the character; fans mostly hated what was done with her, and many of us (myself included) would have liked to have seen the character done better. The character’s potential was further explored in Star Wars Adventures magazine, and the online Forces of Destiny cartoon. I liked those, and I was eagerly waiting to see what could be done with her.
Then JJ Abrams dropped the ball and reduced Rose to a mere background character. The backlash against Rose was apparently so bad that Disney and Lucasfilm decided that it was better to reduce Rose’s role to a mere cameo than to try to turn her into a character that audiences could like.
The building blocks to make Rose a great, beloved character were all there, but Rian Johnson only put in half an effort into fulfilling her potential, and Abrams made no effort at all. Disney and Lucasfilm decided it was way easier to appease racists than to do justice to their nonwhite cast members.
9. The first black woman to get a substantial role in a Star Wars movie exists to be a sidekick and a love interest to the black male lead. That’s it.
And now we’ve got a double whammy of racism AND sexism; we’ve got the first major black female character in mainstream Star Wars history. In the post #MeToo world, in the years of Black Lives Matter, in a time when women of color (ESPECIALLY black women) are making their voices be heard, we’ve got the FIRST black woman to have the spotlight in Star Wars…and MOST OF HER CHARACTER IS DEFINED BY HER RELATIONSHIP WITH EITHER HER IMPLIED LOVE INTEREST OR HER IMPLIED FATHER!
Most of Janna’s screen time is spent talking to Finn, helping Finn out, or making eyes at Finn. Janna doesn’t talk to any other female characters besides Rey, and that’s only ONCE when the former’s introducing herself. It could well be argued that her backstory as a Stormtrooper deserter only serves to give her something in common with Finn, who is also a deserter!
The Sequels were sold as this progressive, Woke take on Star Wars. We were promised more women and more minorities in prominent roles. You’d expect the first major black woman in the franchise to be something…more than someone who’s mostly defined by either her love interest or her father.
Oh, and her being Lando’s daughter? It’s only ever HINTED at, very very vaguely, during her and Lando’s final scene in the movie.
8. Making Rose Tico look ugly while Rey gets to stay beautiful.
What do Rose and Rey have in common? Both have worked in grimy, filthy environments. Both perform strenuous exercise doing their respective jobs. And yet Rey, the white girl, gets to look like this:
But Rose, the nonwhite girl, has to settle for looking like THIS?
And no, it has NOTHING to do with the actresses, both of whom are beautiful head-turners in real life! I’m just questioning why the WHITE girl is allowed to remain beautiful, but the non-white girl has to be made to look ugly, if BOTH are working in typically male-dominated fields? What’s up with that, Disney?
7. Poe Dameron, the Latino male, is a hothead who needs WHITE women to reign him in.
I rest my fucking case.
6. Finn gets a fat suit and is made a joke for his injuries, but Kylo Ren gets a scar and audience sympathy.
And lest we forget, Finn also bonks his head on his healing bed TWICE before he gets up, shambling down the hall in a leaking fat suit. It’s ALL played for laughs, and arguably ruins the gravitas of Finn’s character. Also, friendly reminder that Finn was in a coma because he was fighting to protect his friend, Rey, from Kylo Ren. Yes, let’s all laugh at the black man!
But don’t ANYONE laugh at our WHITE villain! Yes he’s a monster, but he’s also very sad inside! That’s why his first scene in the movie has him get emotionally and physically abused by his master, Snoke! Look at how SAD he looks, like he’s about to cry!
This is a movie released in 2017. Half a century since Black people have been pushing for better roles in cinema, and we’re STILL getting movies where black people are turned into jokes for shit that’s played for sympathy with white people!
5. The second character in the trilogy played by a Latino actor turns out to be criminal scum.
The mid-late 2010’s were not an easy time for us Latinos. A good chunk of the USA was calling for the deportation of many of our brothers and sisters, and the message was clear: we were unwelcome in the USA. Donald Trump got elected partly because he promised a wall that would stop undocumented immigrants from entering the USA, calling our brethren “murderers and rapists.”
When I heard Benicio del Toro got cast in a Star Wars movie, I was beyond ecstatic. Maybe Hollywood can do us some justice, maybe give us the representation we deserve. It wasn’t meant to be, though.
We Latinos have always been stereotyped as less than savory folk, and in the year 2017, Disney and Lucasfilm kept that tradition alive with DJ, the opportunistic, backstabbing thief and traitor. He was only the third character to be portrayed by a Latin American, and THIS is what they gave us. This hurts me especially because Benicio’s a Puerto Rican, like me. The first time I see a Puerto Rican in my favorite franchise, and THIS is what I get?
It’s been said that representation matters. When Disney did this, I wanted nothing more than to become invisible in media again; I’d rather NOT have ANY representation at all, than to just have my people lumped up as criminals and low lives.
4. Poe Dameron is retconned into being a former drug runner.
In Episodes 7 and 8, Poe Dameron is the dashing, rogueish, devilishly handsome pilot who leaps into action with a smile and a quip at the ready. He was brave, loyal, maybe a little hotheaded but always well meaning. He wasn’t perfect, but he was a damn good character whom kids could look up to…
And then Episode 9 revealed he used to run the Star Wars equivalent of drugs. Because OF COURSE we can’t have a Latino without a past with the drug trade! OF COURSE we can’t have a Latino who doesn’t have a shady past he’d love to leave buried and forgotten! Oh no, we can’t have THAT during the Trump years, when KIDS WERE BEING LOCKED UP IN CAGES!!!
3. All nonwhite characters get reduced roles in Episode 9
In Episode 7, Finn was unquestionably the second protagonist of the movie; in Episode 9, he barely has a subplot of his own. In Episode 8, Poe was one of the leads and had a substantial role to play in the movie; in Episode 9, he’s like a sidekick who gets to verbally spar with the white female lead. In Episode 8, Rose Tico was practically the second leading lady of the movie; in Episode 9, she gets a minute and a half of screen time at MOST.
To quote John Boyega: “They knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, they knew what to do with Adam Driver, but they didn’t know what to do with Kelly Marie Tran or John Boyega.”
2. Kylo Ren beats a Force Sensitive ex-Stormtrooper in under a minute, but gets his butt handed to him by a Force Sensitive former scavenger who’d never held a lightsaber in her life.
An idea that came to me recently is how defenders of the Sequels are quick to explain how Rey could realistically beat Kylo Ren in their first fight, yet these defenses are NEVER taken into account with Finn. With the reveal that he’s Force Sensitive, it’s not unrealistic to believe that Finn had a shot at defeating Kylo Ren in their first duel; and yet the injured, emotionally disbalanced Kylo Ren STILL beats Finn in sixty seconds, with fifty five of those seconds spent merely TOYING with the former Stormtrooper!
I don’t want to make undue and unsubstantial claims here, but it does raise my eyebrows to see how a WHITE woman can manage to overcome an opponent that so easily humiliated a BLACK man. Oh, and no, Starkiller Base separating the two isn’t what ended the fight; it’s merely what prevented Rey from performing the finishing blow. She had Kylo Ren legit dead to rights then and there.
1. Finn’s entire character revolves around Rey once they meet.
…how? How? HOW does ANYONE not see how problematic it is for a black man’s entire fucking story to revolve around a WHITE WOMAN!?
It’s been said that Finn’s story was the biggest source of wasted potential in the whole Sequels. The reason for this is because Finn HAD a good story: he was a Stormtrooper, but he defected, and how he’s fighting against the organization that kidnapped him as a baby and tried brainwashing him from a young age. That’s interesting, that’s compelling!
But as soon as Rey enters the picture, he’s all about HER. Why does Finn go to Starkiller Base? For Rey. Why does Finn fight Kylo Ren? To protect Rey. Why does Finn try to leave the Resistance only to get tased by Rose? To find Rey. It’s all about REY for this dude!
We were promised a more progressive Star Wars! A Star Wars where women and racial minorities would get their turn at the spotlight! But what did we get? A Star Wars where racial minorities, be they men or women, get thrown under the bus in service of the WHITE leads! A Star Wars where everyone who isn’t white gets tokenized AT BEST, stereotyped AT WORST! What we got was pure, undiluted, RACISM!